Thanks Dad – my Elder Guide! (Father’s day June 18)

My father, Samuel Russell Harris,  died when I was 27 years old.  Even today I still miss him. He was an eternal optimist! We didn’t have much as a child, but my Dad always encouraged us to turn tough times into an adventure of learning and joy in even the smallest of trials.

I remember when we were getting close to payday and were deciding about what to prepare from our meager cupboards, he joked, “Let’s pick some dandelions, and have them for dinner, and then we can tell the story someday about how we survived on dandelion greens!”   Little did he know that today we would be buying dandelions at Whole Foods as a nutritious green food!

My dad was an advocate of the power of positive thinking.  When I was a little girl he began reading to me from Norman Vincent Peale’s book, The Power of Positive Thinking, first published in 1952, and also read to me from Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence people, written in 1936, and other writers of the era such as Napoleon Hill, Thoreau, and Hemingway.  Dad wrote poetry and kept a daily journal.  He told me,  growing up in the 1950’s and 1960’s, that no matter what society dictated as limitations, I could do good and make a difference in the world if my heart so desired.

My dad only had an 8th-grade education.  He had a traumatic brain injury at age 15 when hit by a car and in a coma for 4 months.  Despite his hard start in life, my dad was one of the smartest men I have ever known. When asked what he did for a living Dad laughed and responded, “I am a  jack of all trades.

To me, Dad was my elder-guide.  He was self-educated, a poet, a philosopher, a dreamer, and an adventurer.  I am grateful that, as my elder-guide, he prepared me to approach life’s ups and downs with hope and inspiration. I am honored to be his daughter carrying his spirit of curiosity, optimism, and adventure on my life journey too.

I recognize that a father is not always defined by their genetic association with a child.  I respect and appreciate others who have stepped up to be  role models,  elder guides, and an inspiration for so many.

You may have an elder guide in your life, either male or female who has inspired you to be the best you can be!  Your elder guides shape who you are and encourage you to be greater than you thought you could be. Elderhood is so powerful with wisdom and guidance for us all.

Around the world, people are celebrating their fathers and father role models.   I found that more than 30 countries in the world are celebrating Father’s day On June 18th.  In Catholic Europe, it has been celebrated on March 19 (St. Joseph’s Day) since the Middle Ages. The Spanish and Portuguese brought this celebration to Latin America, where March 19 is often still the date,  though many countries in Europe and the Americas have adopted the U.S. date.

Below, see the dates in other countries in the world when fathers are honored!

  • Third Sunday in June: United States, Argentina, Aruba[,Canada, China, Costa Rica, France, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Macau, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Trinidad, Tobago, Turkey, United Kingdom, Ukraine, Venezuela.
  • February 23: Russia
  • March 19 (St. Joseph’s Day) – Croatia, Italy. Portugal, Spain,
  • May: 2nd Sunday – Romania
  • May 1: Israel
  • May 8: Korea
  • June 1st Sunday: Lithuania
  • June 2nd Sunday: Austria, Belgium
  • June 5 Denmark
  • June 23: Poland
  • June Last Sunday: Haiti
  • August 2: Brazil
  • August 8: Mongolia, Taiwan
  • September 1st Sunday: Australia
  • September 2nd Sunday: Latvia
  • November 1st Sunday – New Zealand
  • November 2nd : Sunday. Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Norway
  • November 12: Indonesia
  • November 2nd: Sunday. Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Norway
  • December 5: Thailand
  • 40th Day after Easter (Ascension day): Germany

“I always joke that my kids’ favorite holiday is Father’s Day. They love the way I celebrate the occasion by writing each of them a thank-you letter and a check. It’s my way of letting them know how much I appreciate the great pleasure and privilege of being their dad.” Wayne Dyer


About the Author: Jean Garboden is the Director of Education and Innovation at Compass Senior Living, located in Eugene Oregon. Jean is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for-profit health care organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living. Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada.

Old people are less relevant, and have less value – self fulfilling prophecy?

“When we expect certain behaviors of others, we are likely to act in ways that make the expected behavior more likely to occur.” (Rosenthal  1985)

In 1968 Dr. Robert Rosenthal conducted an experiment. The teachers in a single California elementary school were told that some of their students could be expected to be “intellectual bloomers,” doing better than expected in comparison to their classmates.

  • The “intellectual bloomers” names were made known to the teachers, and the teachers were not told that these children were actually no more talented or smarter than other kids, scoring average and below average IQ scores.
  • At the end of the study, all students were again tested with the same IQ test used at the beginning of the study. All six grades in both experimental and control groups showed a  gain in IQ from before the test to after the test.
  • However, First and Second Graders showed statistically significant gains favoring the experimental group of “intellectual bloomers.” This led to the conclusion that teacher expectations, particularly for the youngest children, can influence student achievement.
  • Rosenthal concluded that even attitude or mood could positively affect the students when the teacher was made aware of the children they thought to be  “intellectual bloomers.” The teacher may pay closer attention to and even treat the child differently in times of difficulty.
  • This study has been utilized over the past 50 years, in different situations, and is called a self-fulfilling prophecy or Pygmalion or Rosenthal effect.
  • If a group or a person has a particular expectation of a certain behavior of another group or a person, the expected behavior is likely to occur.

When it comes to aging, our whole culture is saturated with the expectation that there are certain stereotypes of how older people should act including elder adults themselves.

“What if everything we have learned about aging is wrong?”  Dr. Bill Thomas,

  • Society expects and believes that elderhood and aging are bad, sad, and depressing – and so, as we age we are likely to act in ways that make the expected behavior more likely to occur!
  • A study published in the journal Experimental Aging Research suggests that just reminding elders of the fact that older people have bad memories, for example, may be enough to negatively affect their recall ability.
  • Not surprising given that this effect can be found in any subgroup or individual. Tell someone they are dumb long enough and they will believe it and act accordingly.

Self-perceptions and society perceptions of aging tend to influence thoughts and behaviors without people being consciously aware that this is happening.  Changing perceptions of aging is challenging because it involves both individual perceptions of aging and wide-spread societal negative stereotypes that are plastered on social media, news, and in advertising.

Changing aging can begin with you and me.  After all, whatever your age, if you are not an elder now,  you are an elder-in-waiting!

“What you think, you become,” Buddha taught. You’ve heard high-minded quotes like these all your life. Now science has caught up. We can finally quantify and track how beliefs and expectations can shape outcomes.

Older adults who associate aging with ongoing growth and the pursuit of meaningful activities are more likely to view experiences – both enjoyable and challenging in adaptive ways.   We need to push back on the societal stereotypes.  And the data proves that we must, indeed change the current paradigm of aging now to preserve our own true identities as we age.

  • Longevity: A 23-year study,  of older adults who reported more positive self-perceptions of aging lived 7.5 years longer than those who bought into society’s negative stereotype of aging.
  •  Illness: In a study of 1,286 people who believed that aging is a time of continued learning and development reported fewer illnesses six years later.  In contrast, those who believed that aging is a time of physical loss had increased physical illness over the same time period.
  • Brain Health: Compared to people with more positive views of aging, those who endorsed more negative age stereotypes displayed greater signs of risk factors for Alzheimer’s Disease. It was discovered that the hippocampus, an area of the brain related to memory, decreased in size at a faster rate in those who embraced negative age stereotypes. (Moser, Spagnoli, & Santos-Eggimann, 2011)

So, when you look in the mirror, see the truth about yourself.  We are all aging, and society may say you are ‘over the hill,” worn out, of no value, unattractive, and worse. Do you believe that?  Or are you ready to disrupt that idea?

Look at your future elder self in a mirror.  What do you see?  It is proven that “As we think we shall become.”

  • Look at your future elder self: Do you see yourself as a full, capable, beautiful human being, with a vibrant curious spirit even if you have lost your hair, your mobility,  your vision, or your mind?
  • Look at your future elder self: Do you see yourself growing, learning, giving, playing, and living?
  • Look at your future elder self:  Are you able to embrace your life, and recognize that you have much to give and share – right up until that very last breath when you transition to your next great adventure?

Join the movement to change society’s stereotype of aging. Do not let the expectations of society about aging become a self-fulfilling prophecy for you.   You have an opportunity now to change your future experience beyond adulthood, embracing your journey into your own elderhood.


About the Author: Jean Garboden is the Director of Education and Innovation at Compass Senior Living, located in Eugene Oregon. Jean is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for-profit health care organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living. Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada.

I have a 20-year old brain in an old body

What do people over 100 years old want you to know?

I think you will enjoy this 3-minute video below featuring  100-year-old Grandma Eileen who answers the question, “What do I ask old people?”   She answers candidly, and she may give you insight into your own future-self as you continue on your journey when you will someday enter into the wonderful developmental stage of elderhood!

“I have a 20-year-old brain in an old body.”  “My secret is that you make your own happiness, and you make the place better where you are”

This week I went to a celebration of life for 105-year-old Ina Hinds.  Ina and I visited every week at church.  She was interesting and fun. She wore beautiful hats.  Her lipstick and makeup immaculate, and she was dressed ‘to the nines’.   She was beautiful, and her vibrant spirit inspires us today.

In Las Vegas, where I live, Ina Hinds was locally famous and was frequently mentioned in local news stories for her participation in active exercise classes past her 100th birthday.

As a widow in 1992, (age 81),  Ina joined an active exercise class at the YMCA and continued regularly.

“Everybody in the class was at least 60,” said Esther Abele, more than 30 years younger than Hinds. “But Ina was always the oldest, and an inspiration to all of us. She was still coming when she was more than 100. When she got macular degeneration and could no longer drive, she got somebody to bring her. When she started having to use a cane, she hung the cane on a chair, and sat in the chair using hand weights.” Ina recruited much younger women to the class.

Ina hinds at 105 birthday party in Las Vegas Nevada
Ina Hinds at 105 birthday party in Las Vegas Nevada

There is a stereotype of old and very old people. They are often not seen as whole and capable with a collective life experience and a desire to make a difference in the world. Ina was a progressive woman. She was born before women could vote. She put herself and her children through college. She worked at the Pentagon, and she was active in many social causes.

Yet, at her memorial service, many people were surprised at her life accomplishments.  Why?  Because they did not ask her!

Ask the elders in your life what they are looking forward to.  You may be surprised.  Too often we think that elders primarily want to reflect on the past.  Ask about lessons learned from their past experiences that can help you or the world be better today. Those over 100 years old who I meet as I travel around the United States tell me that they live with joy one day at a time, looking forward with gratitude and in anticipation for each new day.

How well-known to you are the elders in your life?

  • Take the time to ask meaningful questions about their experience, their hopes and their dreams.
  • Record their stories in video or audio formats to keep for generations.
  • Create wisdom circles in your homes or in your community where elders and younger people gather to talk and share life experiences, advice, and laughter.

If you are not an elder now – you are an elder-in-waiting. Let us now look to our elders as role models, Showing us how to live with grace and joy into elderhood!


11062337_10206528118188840_645394201235573404_nAbout the Author: Jean Garboden is the Director of Education and Innovation at Compass Senior Living, located in Eugene Oregon. Jean is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for-profit health care organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living. Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada

Elderhood – What do we want to do with an extra 30 years?

“There’s a long life ahead of you, and it’s going to be beautiful, as long as you keep loving and hugging each other.” ~ Yoko Ono

Between 1900 and 2000, average life expectancy increased by nearly 30 years in the United States and most other developed countries of the world. For the first time in history, most people now being born can expect to live seven, eight, nine, or more decades. This changes not only the trajectory of individual lives but also the shape of societies: Adults 60 and older are now the fastest-growing segment of our population.

This increase in longevity gives rise to new important questions:

  • What do we want to do with an extra 30 years?
  • How should we, as individuals and as a society, shape the direction and purpose of our longer lives?
  • Can we design a path to our future that improves the well-being and opportunities of people at all ages?
  • Should we be creating new social and business policies that will foster these opportunities?
  • How do we prepare young people for longer lives—and can these questions be answered in ways that would be beneficial for all generations?
  • How do those of us in Senior Housing reimagine a  purposeful lifestyle for generous and compassionate elders who choose to live in our communities?

Unfortunately, rather than awakening a sense of celebration or innovation, the news of our longer life spans is generating fear and apprehension among individuals and concern among policymakers.

The questions posed most frequently are not the ones mentioned above, but rather these:

  • Can we afford all these old people?
  • Will they bankrupt our society or ransom the future of our children and grandchildren?

We have added 30 years to our lives, not just for the lucky few but for the majority of people in the developed world. The truth is that we have created a new stage of life but have not yet envisioned its purpose, meaning,  and opportunities.

What does this new stage of life mean?

  • Psychologists Erik and Joan Erikson viewed later life as a time when the impulse to give back to society becomes an urgent need.
  • Carl Jung, an early psychologist with interest in the challenges of the second half of life, saw older age as a fertile period of spiritual growth and individuation.
  • Betty Friedan, a social psychologist, researched aging late in her life and suggested that there is a “fountain of age,” a period of renewal, growth, and experimentation based on a new freedom.

Dr. Bill Thomas, a geriatrician, is at the forefront of a strong nationwide movement to reframe life after adulthood, which is Elderhood, as an exciting stage of human growth and development. In his book Second Wind, he explores the dreams and disappointments, the struggles and triumphs of a generation of 78 million people who once said they would never grow old and never trust anyone over thirty.

Having created a new stage of life, Elderhood; the next step is to make these extra 30 years meaningful!  For some of us it may be:

  • Choosing a healthy lifestyle so that the extra 30 years of life can be vibrant.
  • Volunteering or working in jobs to make the world a better place; creating a legacy through service, mentoring and activism to benefit future generations.
  • Embracing new paradigms for aging to realize our potential. Reinventing our life, and doing something we have always dreamed about but never had the opportunity to do
  • Assuming the Elder teaching role as the conduit to connect the generations to restore the broken connections in our culture. Even the frailest elder has something to teach us, if we, as students, recognize the elder wisdom as an opportunity to actualize their purpose and legacy.

For those of us who work in the senior living industry, the typical “bible, bingo, and birthday party activity program” is not the answer. Erik and Joan Erikson viewed later life as a time when the impulse to give back to society becomes a URGENT NEED!

The truth is, we don’t yet know what Elderhood,  this new stage of life,  can be, but the first step is to change the lens through which we view aging and challenge our stereotypical assumptions.

No matter what our age or frailty or ability, we are always fully capable human beings.   Until our last breath, we are evolving, and are in a period of renewal, growth, and experimentation.     See Dr. Bill Thomas in this short video introducing his TedX talk, Elderhood Rising – the dawn of a new world age


11062337_10206528118188840_645394201235573404_nAbout the Author: Jean Garboden is the Director of Education and Innovation at Compass Senior Living, located in Eugene Oregon. Jean is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for-profit health care organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living. Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada

FIVE really cool gifts to buy for Grandma and Grandpa!

Black Friday  is at the end of this week after Thanksgiving.  What to get for grandma and grandpa?    The lists of things to buy are usually lotions, and socks, and slippers, and grocery gift cards – all which are good!   But I was thinking…. what do elders really want?

My grandchildren say I am ‘really cool’ because I stay connected with them on Facebook, Instagram, texting, phone, and Snapchat.   I don’t know about cool, but I am grateful that in my elder years I can continue to be part of the greater community and my family even when the day comes that I cannot travel as I can now. So I asked the elders I come in contact with around the United States What do you want?   And their answers were the same as mine!

  • To spend quality time with friends and family.
  • To have a purposeful life.
  • To maintain independence in choice.
  • To  continue learning and growing.
  • To have joy and spontaneity.
  • To have peace of mind.

The greatest gift you can give is a way for your loved one to stay connected.   You might be surprised how savvy elders can be with a quick tutorial on tablets and iPads and smart phones.

There are some things that are important to consider, if you are thinking about technology gifts.

  • Wi-fi must be set up in the senior’s home.  If living in a senior housing community, most have free wi-fi.
  • It is important to have someone to to tutor and  build a relationship during the learning process to navigate the device.  Grandchildren, friends, or if in a Senior housing community, the Millennial care-team members and their volunteer teams are great resources.

FIVE REALLY COOL GIFTS FOR GRANDMA AND GRANDPA

  1. TABLETS AND IPADS: These all-in-one devices are in many ways perfect for seniors with their touch-screen technology and large print options.   The touch screen allows the elder to access apps easily with a tap of the finger.
  • Facebook–  In our senior housing communities, I have seen the joy on the faces of elders who are connecting with Facebook website on computer screengrandchildren and long lost friends.  One of our Millennial care team members showed an 87 year old elder how to do a video chat on Facebook with her son.  It made her day!   The next morning, when I came into the community, she told me, “I got 8 likes last night!”  Friends she had not connected with in 40 years had found her and connected!
  • Learning and researching–  I talked with a 92 year old man  sitting in the living room with earphones and the tablet watching youtube videos about how to care for plants, as he advised us on the landscaping.  He told me, “This has opened a world of new information to me!”
  • Google earth– Want to ‘walk down the street’ of your childhood home, or visit places in the world?  Some of our teams have hooked a laptop or a tablet to a computer and taken a tour of the world. One woman, who was born in France was able to virtually visit her home town!
  • Cost: Tablets cost between $129$300 depending on the brand.

2.  SMART PHONE: Phones are not only important for keeping the social connection, and necessary for quality of life — but also give elders peace of mind. Many smartphones  offer large buttons, speed dial, visual rings and more.

  •  Samsung Jitterbug is available on Amazon.com for $60.
  •  If your family has a a ‘family plan’ with your provider, you can add grandma or grandpa for $20 – $40  a month, and purchase the phone on an installment plan.
  • Several residents and care team members were chatting with Mrs. Jackson who had just received  a new iPhone from her family.   Jasmine, a care team member,  talked about ‘Face time’, so  we asked Mrs. Jackson if she had her grandson’s phone number in her phone.  She did, and Jasmine showed her how to make a Facetime call.  When the grandson answered he saw faces of  of his grandma and all of her friends and  care team members  excited about the connection!
  • Add ear phones to the gift, and show grandma or grandpa how to access their favorite music too!

3. DIGITAL PHOTOS:  With most of our photos on social media these days, we don’t often take the time to print photos.

  • Digital photo frames are available from $34 to about $110 (which also supports video), depending on what size and capacity you want.
  • Another nice option is to use Shutterfly, where you can upload your photos from Facebook or other social media, or directly from your phone or computer to create a traditional photo album with captions. The photo book  can be mailed directly to your grandpa and grandma to enjoy.  Depending on the size of the book, the cost can be $25 – and up.

4.  IPOD OR MP3 PLAYER & HEADPHONESStudies have proven that music has a powerful therapeutic benefit for all people, and particularly elders.

  • Purchase head phones for $15+ depending on the quality.
  • Purchase an MP3 player or iPod shuffle.  The cost is between $20-$50.
  • Download a song list of music you know that your grandparent loves.

If you haven’t seen the documentary ‘Alive Inside’, it is available on Netflix, and we have seen the power of music to alleviate depression, improve memory, and enhance life!

5.  AMAZON ECHO DOT: Cost  $50.   This is my newest best friend, and I have one in my home office.    In the morning I can say, “Alexa good morning, what is the weather like today?”  She gives a weather forecast.  I can ask what the time is.  I can ask Alexa to play my favorite music.  I can even order through my Amazon Prime account.  “Alexa, add sugar to my cart”.    I can also say, “Alexa, tell me a joke” (they are not very funny!), or “Alexa, what’s in the headlines today?  or  “Alexa set a timer for 10 minutes”.   This week, as I was experimenting with this, I thought this might  be nice for an elder to have in his or her home, especially if visually impaired.  If you have a ‘smart home’, you can also say, “Alexa, turn on the lights in the living room”, or  “Alexa, lock the front door.”

I found a funny video of elders learning to talk with Alexa.

I had to add this  to my “Cool list” today


Technology is here to stay, and the elders I talk with are excited about the possibilities of leading a more vibrant connected life in this new era.  Yes, some say, “I am too old for this.”   But as soon as a connection is made, it is amazing to see how purpose, connection, spontaneity, and joy is evident in their lives!

Another documentary available on Netflix I have been following is ‘Cyber Seniors”  watch the trailer here.   Happy Holiday Shopping!


11062337_10206528118188840_645394201235573404_nAbout the Author:    Jean Garboden is the Director of Education and Innovation at Compass Senior Living, located in Eugene Oregon. Jean is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for profit health care organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living.  Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada.

The gift of grace – 5 wishes at end of life

I was recently visiting a community in Northern California, and met a spunky, feisty, opinionated 90 year old who said to me, “They say that old people can’t handle change, but look how much change we have seen in our lives!”  We talked about the evolution of our culture –  especially in the last 20 or so years of information, cell phones, and social media. She showed me her smart phone, and said, “Don’t know what I would do without it now!”  We both laughed and talked  about the past 50 years wondering how we kept our kids alive with no seat belts in our cars, and how microwaves were the newest technology!

As we connected , she told me that her daughter is upset that she is getting all her ‘ducks in a row’ for the end of her life.  She said that her daughter did not want to talk about it, and the discussion made her daughter uncomfortable.   “What’s the big deal?,” she said. “We are all going to die – that is one thing that does not change.  I am giving her a gift!” She told me how she has  all of the funeral arrangements in place, the dress she wants to wear, the plot purchased, and the headstone designed.  “All my kids have to do is throw a party and celebrate!”

I shared with her that my mother, who passed away in 2010, did that for us too, and she included us in the discussion and in the planning.  I also told her that no matter how old a parent is or how good a life they have lived – for their children, it is still a devastating loss, and we yearned for our mother, even though she told us it was ok, and that she was ready to transition on to her ‘next great adventure.’   So, because our mother ‘got all her ducks in a row’ –   our big family of 5 siblings had no ‘business’ to take care of.  Our mother gave us the gift of allowing us to  focus on caring for each other and embracing the memories and legacy of our mom.

I have been thinking about the wisdom of this elder woman. My husband and I have adult children, and we have not had this important conversation with one another or with our children. Even though I ask many family members and elders about their own Advance Directives, even for me it has been somewhat uncomfortable to talk about.  But like this elder said to me, “What is the big deal? We are all going to die.”   So it is smart to talk about it now.

There are two great resources online that can  help  us all begin the conversation in our homes with our families:

FIVE WISHES  is a non-profit organization sponsored by Aging with Dignity.   Five Wishes is America’s most popular living will because it is written in every day language.  A PDF file of the sample allows you to see how easy it is to begin the conversation.

Five Wishes is used in all 50 states and in countries around the world. It meets the legal requirements for an advance directive in 42 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. In the other eight states your completed Five Wishes can be attached to your state’s required form.    The FIVE WISHES ARE:

  1. My wish for the person to make care decisions for me when I can’t.
  2. My Wish for the kind of medical treatment I don’t want.
  3. My wish for how comfortable I want to be.
  4. My Wish for how I want people to treat me.
  5. My Wish for what I want my loved ones to know.

MY GIFT OF GRACE  is another  resource for starting the conversation.

  • My Gift of Grace is a surprisingly fun game about end of life that families around the world are using to start meaningful conversations.
  • They also have a new Conversation Event Kit  that includes everything you need to host an engaging, enlightening event for your community and staff.

Conversations about values and goals are the best way to ensure that everyone gets the kind of care they want. But these conversations can be challenging to start.

No matter what your age, it is an important discussion to have, because as my new friend and wise elder told me  last week, “What’s the big deal in talking about it? We are all going to die.”  Let’s talk about how to do it with grace and as part of our legacy!


11062337_10206528118188840_645394201235573404_nAbout the Author:    Jean Garboden is the Director of Education and Innovation at Compass Senior Living, located in Eugene Oregon. Jean is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for profit health care organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living.  Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada.

What I have learned so far – Be ignited, or be gone.

What I Have Learned So Far:
by Mary Oliver

Meditation is old and honorable, so why should I
not sit, every morning of my life, on the hillside,
looking into the shining world? Because, properly
attended to, delight, as well as havoc, is suggestion.
Can one be passionate about the just, the
ideal, the sublime, and the holy, and yet commit
to no labor in its cause? I don’t think so.

All summations have a beginning, all effect has a
story, all kindness begins with the sown seed.
Thought buds toward radiance. The gospel of
light is the crossroads of — indolence, or action.

Be ignited, or be gone.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Mary Oliver, age 81 inspires young and old with her poetry.

A private person by nature, and born in a small town in Ohio, Oliver published her first book of poetry in 1963 at the age of 28; No Voyage and Other Poems.  As a young woman Mary Oliver lived for several years at the home of Edna St. Vincent Millay in upper New York state. Over the course of her long and illustrious career, Oliver has received numerous awards including the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1984.

As Mary Oliver has entered elderhood, she maintains her fiery passion  for life, and continues to write poetry that inspires all ages. Now at age 81, Oliver has published “Upstream”, a book of essays that provides deep insights and delightful anecdotes as she examines her role as a writer, reader and a spiritual seeker who constantly practices what she describes as the redemptive art of true effort.

As I work with young people and older people considering a career in eldercare,  many tell me how passionate they are about the opportunities to support the continued growth and purpose of  elders that we are honored to learn from and with.   The very nature of caring rituals: washing others, holding others, feeding others and dressing others – is intentional, intimate, and sacred work requiring a code of ethics, dignity, respect, empathy, intelligence and kindness.  The work of  supporting elders with these physical acts allows them  to focus on self-actualization and spiritual and emotional growth, so they may harvest their legacy and wisdom for future generations.

And I remember Mary Oliver’s words when talking to those who have chosen eldercare as a career.  Can one be passionate about the just, the ideal, the sublime, and the holy, and yet commit to no labor in its cause? I don’t think so.”    This is hard work, important work, human work – inspiring courageous efforts.

The work of upholding the ideals of a person-centered, elder-directed culture requires leaders and care team members  with the passion, the skills,  and the willingness to put their hearts and hands into the work.

Elderhood is about the gifts that age bestows; gifts unique to those who have lived long enough to have learned much of what life is all about, and remain curious about what’s yet to come.   All of us are elders, or elders-in-waiting! We are defining our own future elderhood.  Let us now passionately promote  and embrace a culture that encourages the wisdom of elders to guide us.   Let us ignite, or be gone.


11062337_10206528118188840_645394201235573404_nAbout the Author:    Jean Garboden is the Director of Education and Innovation at Compass Senior Living, located in Eugene Oregon. Jean is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for profit health care organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living.  Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada.

The myth of the grumpy old man

Grumpy old men and crotchety old women are often the labels jokingly given to older adults.

When the film Grumpy Old Men debuted in 1994, the premise was funny. Two elderly neighbor men putting on their best stereotypical crochety ‘attitudes, sniping at each other and at others around them. It was so funny, in fact, that a sequel soon followed – Grumpier Old Men. More guffaws. Leave it to Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon to make us all laugh!

“If you want to be happy, be.” Leo Tolstoy

I have the honor to meet and chat with elders in their 80’s 90’s, and a few in their 100’s.  Some are physically and cognitively fit who find happiness and purpose in community outreach.  They have amazing senses of humor, and they laugh and dream, aspiring to make the world a better place. Those who need some physical or cognitive assistance also have the same desires to laugh, connect, dream, learn and to make a difference! We are there to support them to be their best selves  – with the joy and happiness of  a mindful and purposeful life.  Elderhood is the crecendo of a lifetime!man-in-garden

  • Newsflash!   It turns out that everything does not go downhill as we age – the golden years are really golden!
  • That’s according to eye-opening research that found the happiest Americans are the oldest; and older adults are more socially active than the stereotype of the lonely, grumpy, crotchety  senior suggests.
  • Attitudes like self-esteem, quality relationships, defining life as meaningful, and exercising some independence can help people age well and to something positive even in the face of adversity.”

“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.” Omar Khayyam

In 2002 the National Institutes of Health held a “Successful Aging” seminar. In synthesizing the information presented at the seminar Dr. Judy Selerno, who directs the NIH’s National Institute on Aging, concluded, “Disease and disability are not inevitable consequences of aging.” In other words, simply seeing signs of aging doesn’t have to lead down a slippery slope of hopelessness or despair.

  • There is a national movement from many different organizations to change the paradigm of aging from the image of the grumpy, crotchety old person  to the truth of the wholeness in elderhood with the capacity to learn and grow and make a difference in the world.
  • I really admire the work of Saging International.  They were inspired by Zalman Schachter-Shalomi (28 August 1924 – 3 July 2014), who, in 1992 wrote the book From Aging to Saging: A Revolutionary Approach to growing older.
  • Saging International is a non profit organization looking at life in a new way as we age. They are exploring ways to harvest the wisdom of our lives, finding ways to transmit that wisdom as a legacy to future generations and to give back through service.Their goal is to help each one of us achieve our very best selves into elderhood.
  • Having a purpose in life and giving kindness can make ALL of us happier!

“Be happy with what you have and are, be generous with both, and you won’t have to hunt for happiness.” William E. Gladstone

If you want to experience real joy in your life, start giving away, start giving out… Retired couple Peter Grazier and Nance Cheifetz decided that they wanted to become full-time Fairy Godparents, so in 2003, they sold their Lexus and bought Bodhi, their 1990 Volkswagon kindness van, and have been hitting the streets of the San Francisco Bay Area with lunch and hot chocolate. “Adults should have more fun than they do,” says Cheifetz, who encourages everyone to join in the delight in giving.


11062337_10206528118188840_645394201235573404_nAbout the Author:    Jean Garboden is the Director of Education and Innovation at Compass Senior Living  , located in Eugene Oregon. Jean is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years experience in not-for-profit and for profit health care organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living.

Let this 2-minute video of kindness given by this senior couple just make your day a little happier!

Aging Gracefully with Yoga

Senior woman in meditation by ocean
Elder woman doing yoga on beach – aging gracefully, peacefully, and joyfully.

I came across this video of yoga instructor Tao Porchon-Lynch recently. She is not the typical teacher you might find in a yoga studio, however. She is in her late 90s and is more agile than most people half her age. I find her message of aging gracefully inspiring, and can only hope that some day you will find me at age 90 on my yoga mat.

Porchon-Lynch teaches about elderhood: that it is a time of learning, growth, and porchon-lynchvibrancy; inviting elder adults to grow spiritually, strengthen physically, and find the very best within themselves through a yoga practice accessible to anyone.

It is important to note that yoga is more than a physical practice. The word yoga itself is translated as “union.” It is the drawing together (or union) of heart, mind, and body that integrates all parts of ourselves into a unified whole. Just as a team performs best when all members are focused on a common goal, we become our best selves when every part of our being is in alignment with every other part.

The research available about yoga’s health benefits is vast, with more information and research data specifically about yoga and elders showing up almost daily.

Of particular interest is a recent study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, linking yoga to the reduction of older adults’ risk of mild cognitive impairment—considered a precursor for developing Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Imagine that we can help reduce our risk of Alzheimer’s by practicing yoga!

Besides reducing risk of dementia:

  • people who practice yoga regularly have more energy, vitality, and better moods.
  • yoga also improves muscle strength and flexibility, preventing further breakdown of cartilage and joints and reducing arthritis pain.
  • the wonderful social connection with others is an added benefit when people attend group yoga classes.
  • people who practice yoga regularly have more energy, vitality, and better moods.
  • yoga improves stress resilience, boosts immunity and reduces instances of depression.
  • yoga improves balance and sharpens the mind.
  • medically, yoga can help control blood sugar in people with diabetes, enhances respiratory function, relieves arthritis pain and minimizes hypertension.

It is no wonder Tao Porchon-Lynch has achieved the honor of becoming the world’s oldest yoga teacher. Tao says because of her yoga practice she has never felt old. She shows us that through yoga she is aging gracefully, enjoying how good her yoga makes her feel. As a yoga practitioner in her late-nineties, it is safe to say that feeling good is powerful medicine.

taoporchonlynch_jamaica

 


Guest author Carrie Gallahan

Carrie Gallahan is the Director of Operations for Compass Senior Living, Midwest Region.  She is also a dementia practitioner and passionate elder advocate. carrie-sideplankCarrie  is a Registered Yoga Teacher and a Certified Chair Yoga Teacher. Carrie is the co-founder of Joyful Yoga, located in Peru, Indiana.   Joyful Yoga is an innovation partner with Compass Senior Living and has developed a signature chair-yoga program specifically for Compass Senior Living – True North Yoga.  Carrie has seen first hand what yoga can do for people of all ages and physical abilities. She loves to share the joy and wellness that yoga brings to lives.

The Brain and Aromatherapy – 5 essential oils for Alzheimer’s symptoms

 

 

Essential aroma oil
Peppermint aroma oil  is an energizer, and can be used to stimulate the mind and calm nerves at the same time.

I had learned that patchouli oil can be utilized as an insect repellant, so one afternoon I put a few drops in some coconut oil and used it on my face and arms and legs before going outside.  On my way to the park I stopped at Walmart for some water. I was standing in line when a middle aged man came up to me and said, “You smell good! What fragrance are you wearing?  It takes me back to my hippie days.” He began to describe in vivid detail where he was in his ‘hippie days’ and his experiences.   I was somewhat embarrassed that after smelling me –  he was enthusiastically  recounting his memories of the 1960’s and 1970’s in front of a long line of people!

The sense of smell is closely linked with memory, probably more so than any of our other senses.  Those with full olfactory function may be able to just ‘think’ of smells that evoke particular memories such as the gentleman in Walmart – conjuring up recollections of a whole lifetime before.  This can often happen spontaneously, with a smell acting as a trigger in recalling a long-forgotten event or experience.

After a smell enters the nose, it travels through the cranial nerve through the olfactory bulb, which helps the brain process smells. The Female Limbic System - Anatomy Brainolfactory bulb is part of the limbic system –  the emotional center of the brain.

When your olfactory receptors are stimulated, they transmit impulses to your brain. This pathway is directly connected to your limbic system in the center of your brain.   That’s why your reactions to smell are rarely neutral – you usually either like or dislike a smell. Smells also leave long-lasting impressions and are strongly linked to your memories. That’s why it is worth exploring how aromas may impact the brain and memory of those living with cognitive loss.

As noted in the Journal of Quality Research in Dementia, a limited number of clinical trials have concluded that aromatherapy provides a potentially effective and safe treatment for Alzheimer’s symptoms and related dementias.

While research on the effectiveness of essential oils is somewhat limited, some studies have shown aromatherapy can:

  • Ease symptoms of anxiety
  • Offer relief from symptoms of depression
  • Improve the quality of life for people living with chronic health conditions

In addition to the therapeutic benefits of the oils themselves, sensory stimulation   can decrease agitation, improve sleep and improve the overall quality of life for those living with memory loss.

In our community settings, we have experimented with 5 major essential oils.  We do not apply the oil directly on the skin. It is not ingested.   It is strictly used as aromatherapy, utilized through a diffuser or a few drops on a cotton ball, or in water sprayed on linens or in a basin of water with warm washcloths.

Below are the oils known to be effective for those with symptoms of dementia:

  1. LavenderLavender is thought to be calming and balance strong emotions. It has also been used to help with depression, anger and irritability, and can help in some cases of insomnia. Lavender can be directly inhaled or sprayed on linens.
  2. PeppermintPeppermint is an energizer and can be used to stimulate the mind and calm nerves at the same time. Best used in the morning, peppermint oil can be inhaled directly, diffused in a room, or  sprayed in the air.  We fill a basin with hot water and washcloths and a few drops of peppermint in the mornings, and give the warm, scented washcloths to our elders before breakfast.  It is a great start to the day!
  3. RosemarySimilar to peppermint, Rosemary is an uplifting oil.  It may even improve cognitive performance and mood. Rosemary has also been known to ease constipation, symptoms of depression and also reinvigorate the appetite. Rosemary oil can be directly inhaled, diffused through a room or as a spray.
  4. BergamotBergamot can be used to relieve anxiety, agitation, mild depression, and stress.  This mood elevating and calming oil can also be used to relieve insomnia. To use bergamot oil,  diffuse through a room or as a spray on clothing or linens.
  5. Lemon BalmWhile lemon oil may be among the more expensive oils, it is also one of the most studied and more effective oils. It has been shown to help  calm and relax those dealing with anxiety and insomnia, improve memory and ease indigestion. Lemon oil can be  inhaled directly, diffused, or  as a spray on clothing or linens.

The Faculty of Nursing, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia did an 18 month study utilizing essential oils in the following ways– Bath, Inhalation, Diffusion, Massage, Spritzer.  Their findings: ” The specific improvements for clients included increased alertness, self-hygiene, contentment, initiation of toileting, sleeping at night and reduced levels of agitation, withdrawal and wandering. Family carers have reported less distress, improved sleeping patterns and feelings of calm.”

We have not conducted our own studies yet. Some of us are in the process of becoming certified aromatherapists.  We have anecdotal evidence that indicates aromatherapy is effective.

But I wonder –   Is it effective because of the oils alone? – or could it have something to do with the intentional and empathetic manner in which the aromatherapy is introduced?   Our care teams are studying and seeking  solutions. They are noticing when an elder is demonstrating an unmet need, and responding by being present, eye contact, validating language, respect, and tender care.

Whether it is the aromatherapy or the intentional person-centered approach and empathetic communication – or both,  the results matter.  We know we are making connections. We are in relationship with elders in our care, and we are inspired by the opportunity to learn the lessons the elders are teaching us every day. And some beautiful aromas make the day happier for all of us!


About the Author:    Jean Garboden is the Director of Education and Innovation at Compass Senior Living 11062337_10206528118188840_645394201235573404_n, located in Eugene Oregon. Jean is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years experience in not-for-profit and for profit health care organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living.